Current Exhibitions


Picturing a New Society: Photographs from the Soviet Union 1920s–1980s

April 14 through August 19, 2012

This exhibition explores contradictions between idealistic images and life in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR).  Photography was a key tool to promote party goals both internally and abroad, but did not always reflect reality. The photographs in Picturing a New Society describe virtues for a society that often existed only within pictures. Agriculture and rural areas, industry, the military, and the youth of the USSR were cornerstones of Soviet narratives of progress, and are represented in this exhibition. Photographers include Alexander Ustinov, Max Alpert, Emanuel Evzerikhin, and Georgi Zelma, among others.  Photographs like these are rare: to Soviet photographers, images were tools to inform and influence the public, therefore many were discarded after their message was disseminated.

Picturing a New Society is drawn from recent donations of over 200 Soviet photographs by Howard Schickler and Janice Tuckwood. These remarkable photographs, the first of their kind added to the collection, bring new depth to the MFA’s photography holdings.



Alexander Ustinov                                                                 Georgi Zelma
Worker Taking Measurements, n.d.,                             Fitness Parade on Red Square, 1935
Gift of Howard Schickler                                                     Gift of Janice Tuckwood in memory of Donald A. Tuckwood


Sitter and Subject in Nineteenth-Century Photography


In conjunction with the 23rd Daguerreian Society Annual Symposium to be held in St. Petersburg October 27-30, this exhibition features some 60 nineteenth-century daguerreotypes, ambrotypes, and tintypes. It addresses several facets of the public’s insatiable appetite for portraits of loved ones and strangers alike. Flawless artistic and studio portraits will be on view. Highlights include a rare portrait of James Cutting, the inventor of the ambrotype, by Mathew Brady and a pair of important full-plate daguerreotype portraits by Southworth and Hawes on loan from The Dandrew-Drapkin Collection. One features the statesman Daniel Webster, the other, Alvin Adams, the shipping magnate whose company later became American Express. Other formal portraits of sitters are an elegant likeness of a lady by John Jabez Edwin Mayall and a playful photograph of Russian composer Modest Mussorgsky by Alphonse Plumier. In contrast to these formal portraits, the exhibition also presents images of anonymous subjects, mainly workers and models made by unknown “operators.”

This is the second in a series of exhibitions drawn from The Ludmila Dandrew and Chitranee Drapkin Collection. These recent gifts have utterly transformed the MFA’s existing photography collection.


Photographer unknown, American                                                                    Alphonse Plumier (Belgian, 1819–1877)
Two Portraits of Tradesmen (c. 1880)                                                                Modest Mussorgsky and Friend (late 1860s)
Tintype                                                                                                                         Daguerreotype
Gift of Dr. Robert L. and Chitranee Drapkin from                                           Gift of Dr. Robert L. and Chitranee Drapkin from
The Ludmila Dandrew and Chitranee Drapkin Collection                           The Ludmila Dandrew and Chitranee Drapkin Collection


Theater in Ancient Art:
The William Knight Zewadski Collection


This exhibition of approximately 50 antiquities, dating from the sixth century B.C. to the fourth century A.D., celebrates the theater tradition in Greek, Roman, and Etruscan art and culture. The artworks recreate a theatrical experience that was communal, often celebratory, and sometimes erotic. Found here are not only large-scale vases with finely executed paintings, but also objects used in daily life such as oil lamps, loom weights, and a theater ticket. Highlights include the Calyx Krater—depicting Orestes, his sister Electra, and Apollo, the god of Delphi—and two vessels by the Darius Painter, considered the most erudite and important artist of Apulian pottery (present-day southern Italy). These holdings, on extended loan to the Museum by trustee William Knight Zewadski, comprise one of the most comprehensive American collections of its kind and rival similar groupings in the Getty Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

THE APHRODITE PAINTER, Paestan, South Italy, RED-FIGURE KRATER (WINE MIXING VESSEL), c. 340-330 BC, Ceramic. From the Collection of William Knight Zewadski


Please Note: Additional exhibitions are in the development stage. Exhibitions may be subject to change.